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Nere-do-well Jerry Corbett finally meets and marries the right girl, Joan Prentiss. Unfortunately their wedded bliss is interrupted when Jerry's play becomes a hit and he hooks up with the wrong woman from his past. Joan decides that turn-about is fair play and she picks another man to escort her around to various parties around New York. Eventually Jerry quits drinking and sends his girlfriend packing, just in time for Joan to take him back. Written by
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** MERRILY WE GO TO HELL (Paramount, 1932), directed by Dorothy Arzner, is not a horror movie about Satan worshipers who hold Black Masses in Transylvania, as the title may indicate, but is a story about an heiress names Joan Prentiss (Sylvia Sidney) who meets Jerry Corbett (Fredric March), a drunken newspaperman, on the rooftop during a party. Jerry's ambition is to become a successful playwright. Within a short time he falls in love with Joan, but Joan's father (George Irving) disapproves of Jerry because of his careless ways. He offers to buy Jerry out of marrying his daughter, but refuses to accept the $50,000. Quite happy that Jerry's sole interest is in his daughter, he gleefully approves of the upcoming marriage. During the wedding ceremony, Jerry, somewhat drunk, forgets the wedding ring and finds himself in an embarrassing situation by placing a beer tap on Joan's finger. Time passes. Jerry writes the comedy play, "When Women Say No," and it gets produced. The leading lady turns out to be Claire Hempstead (Adrienne Ames), Jerry's former girlfriend. While the play proves successful, Jerry's married life is not, especially when Joan finds he's spending more time with Claire as well with the booze. Not wanting to be an old-fashioned wife, Joan decides not to let this bother her by dating Charlie Baxter (Cary Grant), the leading man of the play, to society functions. Disgusted, Joan finally does leaves Jerry without telling him she's pregnant with his child. Old Man Prentiss tries his best to keep Jerry from visiting Joan in the hospital, where she's in danger of possibly losing either her life or baby.
The title, MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, happens to be the catch phrase used by March several times in the story before taking a drink. The movie in itself is forgotten with a familiar plot quite common during the Depression era. Film titles using "Hell" in it were also quite common practice during that time, until the production code people stepped in and put a stop to that, for the time being anyway. This romancer may be of some interest to film buffs today, especially seeing it being an early screen appearance by Cary Grant, in his third featured role. He is first seen (in long shot) wearing period costume and wig in Jerry's stage play opposite Adrienne Ames, and later at a social function in dinner clothes after the play's opening, before his character disappears. Sylvia Sidney does what she does best playing a long suffering girl, a kind of role she played from time to time, possibly because of her sweet and tender face. Before the end of 1932, Grant would elevate to becoming Sidney's co-star in one of her most tender movie roles, MADAME BUTTERFLY.
Also featured the cast of MERRILY WE GO TO HELL is Richard "Skeets" Gallagher as Buck, Jerry's reporter friend with a talent for tap-dancing, adding some amusing support during the film's serious moments; Kent Taylor as Gregory; and Florence Britton as Charlcie. Background music score includes "What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do" and "We Will Always Be Sweethearts," songs introduced in Paramount's 1932 musical hit, ONE HOUR WITH YOU starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.
In spite of good actors rising above somewhat average script, it's worth seeing as a curiosity on DVD(double featured with 1931's THE CHEAT). If the story may not be an attention grabber, the title definitely is. (**)
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